Tuesday, 22 July 2008

activ8 Showcase

You may remember me mentioning the activ8 showcase here. Well, at last I have got round to uploading some more info and more importantly details of the winners...drum roll please! Here's Lynsey to talk to you a bit more about it.....

Hello there!

We, in activ8, would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all their hard work and support at our activ8 showcase and awards on Saturday 5 July. The whole evening was a great success and we’ve had some great feedback so thank you!Also congratulations to all those award winners out there! Here is a little more info about those special people whose hard work and commitment was recognised through the awards as part of the event.

Outstanding Personal Achievement and Development through Creative Arts

Awarded to: Thomas Mann

Thomas is a member of activ8 Bridges, our theatre company for young people with disabilities. Thomas has difficulties communicating in the same way many young people can but despite this he is a committed and enthusiastic members of the theatre group. He has created some fantastic music, films and theatre over the past couple of years.

Outstanding Contribution to Bolton’s Communities through Creative Arts

Awarded to: Holly Ball

Over the last year Holly Ball has been an activ8 volunteer that has worked above and beyond the call of duty. In November of last year, she volunteered on our two week summer school and large scale production of Millboys, Chavs and Space Cadets. Throughout this project Holly committed large amounts of time including weekends and evenings to offer invaluable help in the creative and logistical production of this project. Ever since, she has been a fortnightly volunteer with our 8-11 year’s youth theatre group, assisting the workshop leader in the sessions. Holly has been a fundamental asset to activ8 over the last year; she is always enthusiastic and willing to try anything new whether it be street dance, classical singing or rap! Always willing to get involved! Thank you Holly you are a legend!

Most Supportive Team Member

Awarded to: Molly Stevenson

Molly is a member of our Stage 3 youth theatre who meet at The Octagon Theatre every Wednesday evening. Within a group of 25 other young people aged 11-13; Molly has been an outstanding support to her peers. She is always offering to help and guide other members of the group, and you can be sure that any new arrivals to the sessions will be made to feel very welcome as she will go out of her way to make sure. In addition to this her effort, concentration and commitment to the work that they do is always 100%.

It is an absolute pleasure to have Molly in our youth theatre, and we hope that this award will highlight the outstanding levels of support that she offers to her youth theatre group. Well done Molly!

Most Memorable Individual Performance and Most Promising Newcomer

Awarded to: Andrew Darlington

Andrew has received this award for his numerous performances with our stage two youth theatre and through his involvement in our Half Term Play in a Week projects. Andrew’s performances always promise to be enthusiastic and full of energy with brilliant comedy timing.

Andrew has been involved in a number of activ8 projects over the last 2 years, and somehow always manages to steal the show! We wanted to give him this reward as recognition of his hard work and commitment to all of the projects he has been involved in, and for always, without fail, making us laugh!

Most promising newcomer

Awarded to: Betty and Margareth

Betty and Margareth moved from Africa to Bolton a couple of years ago. Since living here, they have become involved in a theatre project called ‘Young in Bolton’ and are now regular members of one of our satellite youth theatre groups. Betty and Margareth are popular members of the group and have shown great talent and commitment.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Shift Happens - part 3

Beautiful Thing (Octagon Theatre and Pilot Theatre) 2005
The next speaker at the Shift Happens event was Artistic Director of the Pilot Theatre, Marcus Romer. We have been lucky enough to work with Pilot on a couple of co-productions (Beautiful Thing and East is East) and it seems Pilot have really embraced the whole Web 2.0 age, so much so that I don't even have to give you the low down on his talk. You can read it here, plus there are some really nice bits and pieces on their site such as short little video guides to social networking, wikis, blogs and things of that ilk. They are fun and also remove much of the mystique about web phenomena and applications. Have a look here, here and here. You can even see a video demo of Pilot Theatre in Second Life! Fancy....

Next up was Roma Patel. Roma is a Scenographer and Digital Artist and has embraced the opportunities offered via new technology with her work in Theatre Design with some great results. Not only does she use new technology herself, she has also researched the impact of utilising this new technology amongst her peers.

I will admit to having rather a soft spot for the 'old skool' small scale models of sets that theatre designers use, there is something so touchly-feely about them and I love seeing things in miniature, plus the beautiful costume sketches designers produce are little works of art. It was the same when I worked in advertising, I loved the hand-drawn black and white 'scamps' the creatives used to convey a concept or idea as they allowed the imagination to flow and the idea to be discussed without distractions about what colour the headline would be or what image we would use in that space. However, not everyone could see an idea from a hand drawn outline and as more and more 'creatives' became conversant with Macs and thus Mac visuals, it seemed as if the focus of discussions moved away from whether this was a good concept to if blue or purple would be the best colour for the headline. Shame!

Anyway, I digress but I can see how the beauty of harnessing digital technology has started to provide more freedom for theatre designers and also allowed a practical solution to many problems, particularly when it comes to designing for tours that require a set to be adaptable to various different spaces. Imagine the scenario...

Production manager: But the ceiling is lower at our a venue, not sure it will fit. Can you build me a new model to check the scale!!

Designer No, problem, no need for a new model, let's see if the set still fits. [Tappity tap, adjust scale button (?!)] There you go, it fits no problem.

Or how about:

Director: I want the atmosphere to be more dramatic, more moody, more ominous, perhaps we need to re-paint the set (I am sure Director's say things just like that, don't they??)

Lighting Designer: Hmm [Tappity tap, adjust lighting with Apple, control adjust lighting key or something] Is that the kind of thing you want?

Director: [Looking at screen] Perfect

Lighting Designer: We'll just need some new gels and to re-set the light at a different height to change the shadowing....

Hope you get the idea. Apologies lighting designers/directors/production managers I have no idea how it the production side works but can see how computers might add a flexible new dimension to the design process. An opportunity to trial, adjust and test before we go to the build stage.

The thing that struck me most about Roma's talk was the overview she gave of Cork's Capital of Culture production (2005) of The Merchant of Venice! In large part due to her ability to be able to recreate the town in 3-D on her computer they were able to have different scenes of the production taking place at different venues throughout Cork town with the audiences being guided between the venues / scenes by musicians and placard wavers. It allowed them to take advantage of some impressive locations while at the same time showing visitors some of the beautiful architecture in the town. The court scenes took place in the court (of course), Belmont scenes were inside various warehouses and Venice scenes out on the street and the wedding / Shylock's conversion to Christianity where else but in the Church. You can see some of the images from the production (both real and digital) here. Unfortunately, you can't see the computer generated walk through of the town which was quite startling.

So thank you Roma and Marcus, all really good stuff....

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Open auditions at the Octagon Theatre

activ8, the participation team at the Octagon are producing a brand new musical, 'Well Swung', to be premiered in the Theatre at the end of August. The show has roles available for a number of young actors and singers (aged 14 -21) and also members of our community who play a brass instrument (of any age).

Auditions are taking place for Brass musicians on Monday 21st July between 3pm and 6pm and for young actors/singers on Tuesday 22nd between 3pm and 6pm at the Octagon Theatre.

activ8 has teamed up with local musician and studio manager Pete Faint. Pete creates swing music with a surprising twist. This inspiring music was the starting point for the creation of a brand new actor musician show. Caz Brader, the show’s Producer and Head of activ8 said …

“The music Pete creates is unique in it’s potential to appeal to teenagers and the over 60’s alike. It’s fantastic! Music that brings together people from different generations seemed the perfect starting place for a community show. So we commissioned it. We hope to bring together talented people of all ages from across Bolton to perform this show and give them the opportunity to tread the boards at their local Theatre”

To book an audition slot please ring activ8 on 01204 556501. The cast and orchestra must have availability to attend the two week ‘theatre school’ for rehearsals throughout the last two weeks of August.

The show ‘Well Swung’ will be performed at the Octagon Theatre on the 29th and 30th of August.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Shift Happen - part 2

Okay time for the second part in this series. The lowdown on the recent Shift Happens event I attended.

The second speaker at the event was Ben Todd, correction, Dr Ben Todd - the Dr bit is important. He is the Executive Director of the Arcola Theatre in that London village and an engineer. An engineer at the head of an arts organisation! Have you ever heard of such a thing?Well, it seems that this move has been an inspired one for the future of the theatre (for all theatres for that matter).

Due to his PhD in Sustainability type things (can't remember the exact title), Ben has made it his mission to make the Arcola a sustainable and environmentally conscious organisation, and therefore has made sustainability a core value of the Arcola. Now with all this talk of the environment, the world ending and all that that it might just sound like another gimmick but Ben gave a great talk about why this issue was so important to the arts and why he had chosen an arts organisation as a vehicle for driving these changes.

As he highlighted, engineers are marvellous at coming up with brilliant ideas but not always the best at communicating them (apologies to those engineers out there that might disagree with this - Ben wasn't too shabby at the old presenting himself as a case in point). However, in the arts communicating is what they do and what they do very well and the Arcola particularly. Not only are they getting recognition for what goes on on stage (Critics Choice and other theatrical accolades) but also awards for their commitment to the environment.

The Arcola Community
As part of his presentation, Ben showed plans for the future of the Arcola Theatre which was fascinating. You can see the pictures in his presentation available here. Not only would the building have a Biomass Boiler, (for burning scripts, sets and all the stuff theatre tend to just chuck away etc), low energy lighting, solar power, and rainwater collection but also to encourage development of future technologies by including what they call the 'Incubator'. A space where entrepreneurs, scientist and engineering types can meet, nurture and hatch new ideas. A similar idea to Tom's about providing a space for people to connect, collaborate and create good stuff.

He also talked about how he hopes to not only build a new type of community within the theatre by allowing practitioners of different disciplines to share a space to become a melting point of new ideas and creative endeavours, the Arcola sees the community being involved. And I mean really involved. Not just by buying tickets and drinking the organic beer from the bar but by helping with the building of the structure itself. A huge community project with, rather than locals buying a brick or sponsoring a seat, they can literally help build the place. A really nice idea and great way of getting the community involved and supporting the Arcola. He also talked about the possibility of having a growing space on the roof where the fine people of Hackney can grow vegetables and the like. A bit like the things that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and other folk are doing with inner city agriculture or that the Guerrilla Gardener has been doing for a while.

Not only is he doing things to change how the Arcola operates but is also asking their suppliers to change along with them by writing to them about the shift and asking how they can change their products and services to be in keeping with this ethos (rather than just switching suppliers). He is currently working with London Calling on how they can minimise the amount of print waste that is produced by arts organisations. I have great sympathy with this as although we try and reduce our print as much as we can so we don't end up just throwing it all in the recycling bin (we do recycle!) we could be better and I will be interested to see what recommendations they put forward.

And to all those sceptics out there that think this is liberal nonsense, focusing on sustainability has allowed the Arcola to tap funding sources that previously would not have been accessible to them or even interested in funding the arts so at the same time as helping the environment and the community, he is ensuring the Arcola is sustainable as a business. Really, really good and interesting stuff and a great speaker. Thanks Ben!

I can't really do what he said justice here and if you get the chance to hear him speak, do so. If not, you can keep up with the goings on of the project, from how they did in their internal waste audit and what they decided to do about it, how to light a show with only 5KW (go for a production that requires naturalistic lighting apparently!!) and who is the best supplier of green energy, on their blog over at Arcola Energy.

UPDATE: Further to all this green talk I also forgot to mention that I heard on the radio that the world's first 'green' nightclub opened last week. You can read more about it here. Apparently, power is generated through the floor when it is danced upon! Gives a whole new meaning to 'Breakdance too, electric booggaloo' doesn't it?!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

It's good to talk

We are looking to put together a group of people (Advisory panel / Steering /Focus Group - whatever you wan to call it) that we can call on to ask various things about the Octagon Theatre. We would love you to join us.

It will probably mean a few hours every couple of months when you will come to the theatre, have a cuppa and a biscuit and get asked questions about various issues from brochure design to shows and events we are planning to what's the tastiest thing on the Spotlight Cafe's menu!!

We would like a mixed panel of people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds including both regular theatre attenders and those that we are yet to convince to cross the threshold. If you think you can spare the time and have an opinion are aren't afraid to share it then let's talk!

You can either leave me a message in the comments section (I will need a contact email / phone number - don't worry I won't publish your details publicly) or you can email your details to sally.boyd@octagonbolton.co.uk

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks to those of you that have already responded to the recent email regarding this very thing. As they say in the business, our people will contact your people (does anyone really say that??)

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Shift Happens - part 1

Apologies for the lack of posting over the last week but I have just been taking a breather from the blog now we have come to the end of the Anniversary Season and before we kick back off again preparing for the brand-new, spangly Autumn Winter 2008 Season.

Anyway, last week I was lucky enough to attend an rather marvellous Technology and Digital Conference Shift Happens - get me! Over the day a variety of speakers regaled tales of Web 2.0 and other technological and environmental changes that are occuring and what they mean for the arts. It was such a valuable and interesting day I thought it might be worth writing a bit about each of the speakers / presentations here over the next week or so.

WARNING: there may be gushing - it was a great day and I would love to thank those that organised it immensely! So thanks Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal and Arts Council - I doff my cap....

First up was Tom Fleming. Tom, in his capacity as a Creative Consultant, has recently written a report on 'The case for 'mixed art-form and media venues' in the digital age' which explores the role of 'bricks and mortar' infrastructures (buildings to me and you) in a digital context. Now some of what he was saying went over my head (it was early on in the proceedings, I was somewhat distracted by the rather beautiful auditorium of York Theatre Royal and I hadn't had my caffeine fix for the day) but here are the things I have picked out - the salient points you might say. Tom, if I have misrepresented you then I am deeply apologetic!

His focus was mainly, as the title of his report suggests, around mixed art-form/media venues such as FACT (Liverpool), Broadway (Nottingham), Watershed (Bristol), Showroom (Sheffield) Tyneside Cinema (Gateshead) and Manchester's own Cornerhouse and how these organisations are increasingly becoming creative hubs in a true Web 2.0 context - the audiences are encouraged to become the creators.

These organisations not only provide stimulation and inspiration by way of an interesting programme they provide space (cafes , bars, meeting places) and facilities (multi-media suites, equipment hire, free wifi) for people to connect (actually or digitally), collaborate (this tends to happen quite organically when different people come together in a creative space) and create their own work. This then feeds back into their programme by offering these creators opportunities to showcase their work either online or via various film and new media festivals.

As Tom describes it these venues become brokers for creative endeavour, allow people to contribute on a community and civic level and potentially become drivers behind the creative economy....or something! As per Tom's presentation Antony Lilley says it much better:

“Whilst traditional media technologies primarily concentrate on the distribution of ideas, the
interactive media technologies are concerned with handing active control and the ability to
communicate to citizens.”

(Antony Lilley in Ofcom’s 2007 discussion paper on Public Service Content)

Although, it isn't necessarily supported by increasing provision of technological facilities at the Octagon in our own lo-fi way, we are also enabling creativity and encouraging the audiences to become the contributors through the work of the marvellous activ8. They provide the stimulus and facilitate the creative expression of their attenders. These audiences were given the opportunity recently to become performers at the recent activ8 Showcase where they had the opportunity to express their ideas or should I say 'art' on the Octagon's main stage. I will talk more about this at a later date as I am wandering off topic rather.....

The other interesting point that stood out to me, is how these venues often become the focal point around which local regeneration takes place. I guess this resonated with me further to plans for the regeneration of Bolton Town Centre and particularly the area around the Octagon which is known as the Innovation Zone! Perhaps a ripe opportunity for the Octagon to start offering a wider range of digital facilities to the local community. A thought anyway! Love the thought of the next Brecht or Naughton conceiving his first masterpiece over a cup of tea and a teacake in the Spotlight Cafe... seeing some of the characters that come into the Octagon there is material for a play right there!
Anyway, I am sure I have just scratched the surface here. If you are interested in reading more you can have a look at Tom's presentation here.